Dodge City, Kan. (westernkansasnews.com)–It was a season opener to remember on Saturday night in front of a great crowd inside the United Wireless Arena, as the Southwest Kansas Storm faced the Wyoming Mustangs in their home opener. While the Mustangs led for a vast majority of the night, the Storm would storm back in a wild finish, for a 43-42 win for the new franchise.
Wyoming scored first on their opening drive, burning nearly six minutes, as Damion May hit Chant Taylor with a swing pass from five yards out with 9:21 left in the opening quarter to go up 6-0. The extra point was blocked, and almost returned by the Storm for points. Southwest Kansas turned the ball over on an interception in the end zone, then had a 40-yard drive in five plays to take their first lead. Giovanni Sanders connected with Jerrod Heard on a crossing pattern from 12 yards out with 1:22 left in the opening quarter to lead 7-6 with the Dillon Burkhard PAT.
The Mustangs answered back early in the second quarter with a Chant Taylor five-yard run with 12:30 left before halftime, and got a two-point conversion from Michael Barulich to Datryn Evans to make it 14-7 with 12:30 left in the second quarter. A drive that took 2:29 off the clock got the Storm to within a points with 10:01 left before the break, as George Moreina scored from five yards out, but they would miss the two-point conversion. Wyoming would go on a drive that took 9:06 off the clock. They converted two long fourth downs, and their lone third down of the game that resulted in a touchdown. With 55 seconds remaining in the second period, My found Evans from 15-yards out on third and goal to extend the lead to 21-13 with the Barulich kick. However, it didn’t take long for Southwest Kansas to respond. In just one play, Sanders connected with Zuri Davis on a 38-yard touchdown pass, as Davis weaved his way around Mustang defenders to make the score 21-19 with 46 first half seconds remaining. The extra point was missed.
It was a tough start to the second half for the Storm offense. They fumbled on their opening series on third down in Wyoming territory, and after getting a stop on fourth down at the Southwest Kansas 21, a pick-six from 45 yards out by Chant Taylor put the Mustangs up 27-19 with 6:19 left in the third quarter. Wyoming missed the extra point. The Storm were able to regroup and marked down the field quickly in 23 yards on just three plays, as quarterback Jerrod Heard scored from four yards to pull them to within two at 27-25 with 2:50 left in the third as the two point conversion failed. It was the Southwest Kansas defense that would give the Storm the lead heading into the final period.
In the final 15 minutes of play, the lead would change hands four times. The first came on a eight-yard pass from May to Rashad Ridley with around 10:28 left, to put Wyoming ahead 33-31, and they doubled their lead on the two-point conversion from May to Evans. After both teams had a turnover on downs, it was Southwest Kansas who scored late. With 1:25 left, Jerrod Heard connected with Antwan Goodley in the back of the end zone from 23 yards out to put the Storm up 37-35 on the first play of the drive. Wyoming started at midfield on the ensuing drive and scored on four plays, all on the ground. With 44 seconds left, it was quarterback Damion May scoring from a yard out, and the Mustangs would miss the two-point conversion to go up 41-37. Wyoming scored an additional point on the kickoff, as the Storm were tackled in the end zone to extend the Mustang lead to 42-37. Southwest Kansas would get the ball at their own five yard line. They used the padding, which is the boundary, to their advantage, and moved the ball inside the Wyoming 10 quickly. After a penalty on the Mustangs moved the ball down to the two yard line, it was the Storm scoring on third and goal with four seconds remaining, as Heard found Giovanni Sanders for the go ahead touchdown, and the two-point conversion was almost intercepted, as the Storm found themselves up 43-42. Wyoming returned the kick to their own 19, and set up a game-winning field goal, but Michael Barulich pushed it wide left, and Southwest Kansas picked up the big 43-42 win.
Unofficially, the Storm had 205 yards of offense, with 135 through the air and 70 on the ground, and Wyoming had 176 yards of offense, with 155 through the air and only 21 on the ground.
At 1-1 on the season Southwest Kansas will have three weeks off before playing at Topeka against the Tropics on April 9.